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Dallas Jury Finds Stepmom Guilty In Child Dehydration Death

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Susy Solis
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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A jury is deliberating the sentence for a Tina Alberson, 44, who was convicted of reckless injury to a child, after her stepson Jonathon James, 10, died of dehydration in the Summer of 2011.

A guilty verdict was reached, but it wasn’t the one that prosecutors wanted.

Prosecutors had originally charged Alberson with serious bodily injury to a child, which is a first degree felony and holds a maximum sentence of life in prison.

But jurors chose another option, convicting Alberson of reckless injury to a child, which is a second degree felony and holds a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Alberson showed no emotion when the verdict was read.

Jurors had to distinguish if Alberson “knowingly” knew the harm she caused James or if she was “reckless.”

By convicting her of reckless injury to a child it means, “the defendant was aware of the risk that her conduct would cause the result and she chose to disregard that risk,” according to Eren Price, the Assistant District Attorney of the Child Division in Dallas County.

However, because of a prior charge in 2001 of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, Alverson is eligible for a sentence of 5 years to life in prison.

“She’s already a convicted felon, and they are allowed to consider that when assessing what punishment is appropriate,” Price said.

Arrested Dallas parents Michael Ray James (l) and Tina Marie Alberson (r). (credit: Dallas Co. Sheriff's Dept.)

Accused parents Michael Ray James and Tina Marie Alberson of Dallas. (credit: Dallas County Sheriff’s Department)

Prosecutors called the maternal grandmother of Jonathon James to testify in the punishment phase of the trial. She was the only witness called by the state.

Alberson’s father testifed also.

Tina Alberson, 44, pleaded not guilty to a charge of injury to a child, serious bodily injury.

In closing arguments this morning, prosecutor Carmen White said Alberson had performed “cruel and unusual punishment” on her stepson by “denying a person the basic necessities of life.”

Defense attorney Bill Fay said about his client,”She tells you that she is restricting water at certain times,very limited times.”

Fay said everyone who had been interviewed, including Jonathon’s fraternal twin brother, Joseph, with whom he was very close, did not detect any form of distress in the days and hours before Jonathon collapsed and died.

But Joseph James did testify that his brother had tried repeatedly to ask for water and even pretended to use the bathroom in order to sneak water from the faucet.

Prosecutor Marci Curry played a video of the interview between a Dallas Police detective and the defendant in which Alberson admits that she used restriction of water as a form of punishment for his misbehavior.

“He’s got to know what he is doing wrong,” Alberson is heard saying. “I can’t just let him go and not say anything about it.”

Jurors will continue deliberations on Tuesday.
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